Will checklist

Massachusetts Inheritance Laws: What Will Happen to Your Estate if You Die Without a Will?

With new and prospective clients, a question that often arises is: “What will happen if I die without a will?” The short answer is this: if you die without a valid will, Massachusetts estate law will create one for you. When a person dies without a will, they are considered to have died “intestate.”

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 190B, Article II, Sections 2-102, 2-103 and 2-105 outline who will inherit your probate property in the event that you were to die intestate. A handy reference chart, summarizing the statute, can be found below:

Surviving Family Members Who Gets What
Parents, but no surviving spouse or descendants 100% to your parents
No surviving spouse, but surviving children 100% equally divided among your children
Spouse but no surviving descendants or parents 100% to your spouse
Surviving descendants and surviving spouse where all surviving descendants are also descendants of the surviving spouse 100% to your spouse
Spouse and parents, but no descendants Spouse inherits first $200,000, plus ¾ of the balance, the remainder goes to your parents
Descendants who are all surviving spouse’s descendants, but spouse has one or more surviving descendants who are not descendants of the decedent OR one or more of decedent’s descendants are not descendants of surviving spouse Spouse inherits first $100,000, plus ½ of balance, remainder divided equally among your children
No surviving descendant, spouse or parent To surviving descendants of decedent’s parents in equal shares at each generation (i.e. siblings, if any, or if not, their descendants)
No surviving descendants, spouse, parent, siblings or descendants of siblings To decedent’s next of kin in equal closest degree of kindred as determined by law (imagine a family tree branching up and then out)
No takers Commonwealth of Massachusetts

If you die intestate, you effectively give up the right to decide what happens to your estate assets. You also give up the right to decide who oversees the probate of your estate and whether or not your assets should be protected in trust for any of your desired beneficiaries. You also give up the right to nominate guardians for any minor children. If these decisions matter to you, do not make the mistake of dying intestate and make sure you have (at least) a will in place.

Don’t have a will? Contact us today to get your estate planning process underway.

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Anthony J. Dragga

Tony Dragga is a highly regarded Associate in the firm’s Estate, Financial & Tax Planning Practice Area, helping clients in Massachusetts with a variety of matters, including the preparation and administration of estates and estate plans. Business owners, distinguished professionals, senior executives, and high net worth individuals turn to Tony to develop personalized plans to reduce or eliminate estate, gift, and income taxes. Clients also rely on Tony in a variety of matters including the investment and division of assets, identification and appraisal of estate and trust assets, preparing and filing federal state estate tax returns, and collection of life insurance and employee benefits.

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About the Authors

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LinkedIn

Associate

Anthony J. Dragga

Tony Dragga is a highly regarded Associate in the firm’s Estate, Financial & Tax Planning Practice Area, helping clients in Massachusetts with a variety of matters, including the preparation and administration of estates and estate plans. Business owners, distinguished professionals, senior executives, and high net worth individuals turn to Tony to develop personalized plans to reduce or eliminate estate, gift, and income taxes. Clients also rely on Tony in a variety of matters including the investment and division of assets, identification and appraisal of estate and trust assets, preparing and filing federal state estate tax returns, and collection of life insurance and employee benefits.

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